States from Central and West Africa have reached an agreement to create a regional center for coordinating the rise in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The recent spate of attacks have become such a problem that they seriously endanger the shipping industry in the Gulf.
The Gulf of Guinea hold major oil reserves, and also is a transit way for cocoa and metals. But while Somali piracy in the eastern portion of the continent has waned, piracy on the other side is on the rise.
The different brand of piracy, aimed at “smash and grab” attacks that steal precious cargo rather than take hostages, has caused insurance rates for shipping vessels traveling in the Gulf to skyrocket. In turn, this has decreased the amount of port-calls in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast — all countries that rely on maritime trade to account for a huge percentage of their GDP.
This new counter-piracy center will be established in Cameroon, and will focus on intelligence gathering and information sharing, in hopes of improving each countries maritime domain awareness.
Piracy is difficult for individual countries address, especially ones with relatively nascent governments. Especially as the challenge grows, regional countries will need to continue to increase their cooperation to combat the problem.
Here, international navies will be of less help than in the Indian Ocean; most of the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea takes place closer to shore and within the territorial waters of coastal nations. These nations, such as Nigeria, Togo and Benin, have been somewhat reluctant to cede their neval sovereignty to a task for from EUNAVOR or NATO.
Recent estimates show that piracy in this region is increasing. Attacks nearly doubled from 34 in the first half of 2012 to 67 in the first half of 2013. Some international organizations put the cost to the global economy at between $740 million and $950 million. The cost to these developing and delicate nations in the region, however, is much larger due to the huge losses they will incur if shipping vessels begin to avoid their ports.